Ranjit Singh Jenny Hall Convenience Store, Gateshead
Says: The cost of everything is going up, and energy costs even more. My quarterly electricity bill is usually £1,300 to £1,400, but now it is increasing by more than 20%. Mind you, if the cost goes up even £100, that alone puts pressure on us because our margins are not getting any bigger. We are just barely making a small profit in the first place. We cannot pass these costs on to the customer either. The supermarkets are selling everything really cheap, so it is hard to get any room there. On top of that, it seems that customers are changing their lifestyles, to the point that they want to go to the supermarket rather than the convenience store. So the last thing we can do is increase prices.
This summer we have not been using heat. We have been turning outside neon signs off to save money. But we still have the cooling costs for products in-store. The only thing we can do is turn the beer chiller cabinets down when it gets towards late evening. There is nothing else we can do. We don't really have anyone to turn to for advice. Occasionally people contact us about switching providers, but they are just interested in their own profits.
Dr Garry Felgate Carbon Trust, Clement's Inn, London
Says: Independent retailers don't need to invest in expensive new technologies to reduce their energy consumption. A few simple steps could cut energy bills by 10% without them paying a penny.
If they add other changes requiring only minimum investment, they could cut their bills by at least 20%. An important first step is to keep track of bills. Unless they know what they're paying, they won't know the impact of energy-saving measures. Heating accounts for 40% of energy use in a typical retail environment. In summer, retailers may not need boilers on all the time. Another tip is to set air conditioning to 24°C or higher, so it won't operate at the same time as the heating.
Making the best of natural daylight can reduce lighting costs by 15%. Where daylight is insufficient for display purposes, retailers should only switch lights on at the start of trading hours.
Retailers storing non-perishable goods such as carbonated drinks in chillers should turn them off after hours. Display cabinet lights should also be turned off.
The Carbon Trust offers advice and loans to help businesses install energy-efficient equipment.
Nigel Smith British Retail Consortium, London
Says: Energy for heating and lighting is the third-largest annual cost that any retailer will commonly face. The key to energy efficiency is appropriate management and encouraging greater awareness.
Motion detectors can be installed relatively cheaply and they can make a big difference in areas such as storerooms, where lights tend to get left on. By fitting timers to electrical equipment such as immersion heaters and window display lighting, retailers can ensure that they are not wasting energy out of hours.
Most people are comfortable working at a temperature of 19°C. By reducing the temperature by one degree, retailers could cut their heating bills by as much as 10%.
Of course, a lot of retailers are aware that changing their energy supply could save them money. But in some cases retailers have been given misleading information about how much they could save and have found they can't easily get out of agreements. So it is important not to buy into a package without impartial advice.
The BRC would like retailers to have the same rights as individuals, such as a cooling off period after signing up with a supplier.